Signal Booster vs. LTE Cellspot

  • 7 October 2017
  • 49 replies

I recently started tmobile service and have poor service in our house. we had poor service in our house with verizon also, it's just the area we are in with the nearest cell tower being 4 miles away.

I asked for a device to help with that and tmobile is sending a signal booster. but then i read more about it and found tmobile has an LTE cellspot as well, so I asked for that to be sent to me as well.

from what i've read so far, i am leaning towards using the Cellspot. but my question about it is: can i setup so that only the phone numbers I want to connect can use it ? neighboring homes are 50 -100 ft away. so my only concern is if other tmobile subscribers find the signal and connect to it.

privacy and accountability of what goes thru my internet connection:

the rep said that the cellspot would keep track of the IMEI devices that use it. somewhat worried about being accountable for someone else's illegal internet activities via the cellspot, even when the IMEI is logged - the activity is still highlighted as passing thru my internet connection.

can i enable registered phone numbers that can access the cellspot ?

signal in the home:

i suppose the cellspot is superior because it doesn't rely on any incoming cellular signal. i have no choice but to keep it near my router.

any concerns at all about health ? this is basically a miniature cell tower not sure if signals/frequencies are in a similar category as wifi ....


49 replies

My understanding is that any T-Mobile customer can access your LTE Cellspot. The biggest issues there are that it will be using your ISP quota and your usage will go against both the ISP's quota and your T-Mobile quota (if any). The only real advantage of using the LTE Cellspot over WiFi is that calls can hand-off to the cellular network when you walk outside. How's your WiFi router? You could just use WiFi.

i have wifi at home, not the issue really - issue is I have an old verizon s5 and will need to get a basic phone that both need to work in the home to receive calls and texts. all 3 lines within the house will need to receive calls and txts all the time.

i received the signal booster and am trying it out. works well on my iphone 6 and i can go around the house without wifi and don't have issues. but the galaxy s5 (verizon) won't do wifi calling on tmobile's network because the rom is verizon branded/specific. it also appears that with the booster the situation is not much improved on the s5 - that tells me it's got some limitations to radio bands it cannot use. where i get 3-4 bars and LTE on the iphone 6, the s5 gives 2 bars and 4G, but fails to make/receive calls and texts.

i can switch out the s5 with an iphone, that would probably improve that line. but then i still have to consider the basic phone.

when the LTE cellspot arrives I will try that out as well. i read somewhere that AT&T's version of the same thing permits individual phone numbers to be registered - that prevents unwanted mobiles from connecting. would have been nice if this LTE cellspot had the same feature.

Userlevel 6
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There is no way to limit who connects to the cell signal being produced by the device. That being said you shouldn't have to worry for two reasons. One is the fact that the device can only support I believe 10 people at one time. Two is that the range itself is comparable to that of a wifi connection so unless someone is just sitting outside your house they will probably get connected to the native coverage not the one produced by your device.

Also its not to bad since its free and included. Other carriers like AT&T still charge you for those devices. Also the main reason that T-mobile doesn't let you block others from connecting to the cell spot is because it is still their hardware. Plus it benefits them to allow other t-mobile users to use the connection. This adds coverage to their network and offloads some congestion from towers.

i did not know that at&t charges customers for a signal amplifier just to improve coverage. tmobile's offerings in that regard are much better.

you have valid points. i was not extremely concerned - because i know each device has an imei number and device activity is tracked by that number. since the range is about as good as wifi, weak or strong signal beams, etc. i don't anticipate it will be reachable by my neighbors. where i live if i venture outside my wifi connection drops drastically. but i am able to see some neighboring wifi broadcasts.

either way, i'm going to test it today and see how well it works, then i would return either the signal booster or lte cellspot, depending on which one i don't want.

Userlevel 6
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well I personally hope things work out for you. I personally believe you will end up preferring the cell spot over the booster since it will be a clean signal independent of the tower you normally connect to. Its also the one I used to you for my house before it got upgraded to LTE. Anyway let us know how it turns out for you.

Userlevel 6

Hey, @zero7404​! I know you got some great feedback here; but I wanted to check in and see if you'd had a chance to do some testing. How are things going for you? Were you able to select the best coverage solution option for your situation?

- Marissa

it has not been going, actually.

i have received 2 different 4g lte cellspots from t-mobile because one of them would not progress past the blinking power light. the second unit is doing the same thing. checking in my router, i have been able to see the devices connected to the port, but neither has shown any type of heartbeat - zero transmission activity for several hours after power-up.

they are both in their boxes and i am preparing to send them back to t-mobile.

Two out of two, sounds like something is wrong with the setup. Does it have a GPS signal? Are any ports blocked on your router?

i have not deliberately or knowingly blocked any ports on my router, so if there are ports which -by default- are normally blocked on a router that are preventing the units from connecting to the internet, I am not aware of it because I didnt see it in the instructions for setup.

the gps was connected and mounted near a window. no way to tell if that was working because no other lights flashed or illuminated.

i also had tried putting the cellspot’s registered ip address in the router’s DMZ, without success.

what ports should be opened for it to access the internet, I‘ll give it one more try tomorrow. though this time after the 2 hour mark if it’s the same blinking power light im just going to pack both units and take them to my tmobile store.

Userlevel 5

Hey @zero7404

Just checking in here. If you didn’t block any ports on your router and are just using the default setup, there is no reason you would have to open up any additional ports. The errors you are getting sound like they are provisioning issues on the network backend. Were you able to get past the initial setup yet? If not, what is your ZIP code if you don’t mind me asking?

brief synopsis so you can see what's happening -

have 1 signal booster, works fine.

asked for a 4g lte cellspot to try it out, would not go past green blinking power after 12 hours being connected. decided to return. tmobile sent another, which turns out does the same thing. they said the second one was not in the system correctly according to technical support based in the US (colorado I believe). so this unit is going back also.

they have initiated a 3rd one to be sent to me, this time i requested they make sure it's functional. when i get it i will plug it in and let it do it's 2 hour thing, if the same situation then i would be at a loss for words.

my router, to my knowledge did not have all ports blocked by default but i set them up as forwarded to the cellspot anyway, just to make sure. this second unit has been plugged in for about 24 hours and the power light is blinking green, but as of this morning the internet light has also been blinking orange. all other lights on the front are off.

Userlevel 5

My goodness! Please know this is definitely not the normal case for our CellSpot devices. I am very glad to hear that our techs were able to identify the issue though. I have high hopes for this next replacement. Please let us know how it goes.

the 3rd LTE Cellspot seems to be working. all lights lit up green before the 2 hour setup period.

reception in our house seems to be pretty strong now with good call and text service, even on the non-t-mobile galaxy s5 we have.

i would like to keep wifi enabled on our devices, i don't want to use cellular data whenever i have a good wifi connection. would the presence of the cellspot cause a conflict with the router wifi broadcast, or some other issue on the phones themselves ?

Userlevel 5

That is great to hear! There should be no conflict at all using WiFi and the cellspot 😊

seems to work excellent so far.

although as of yesterday my iphone 6 has been showing signs of “Touch Disease”, several hard resets just to be able to use the phone.

Anyone know if this unresponsive screen issue also affected the iPhone 6, not just the 6 Plus ? I remember hearing about it last year.

Userlevel 5

I remember seeing this for the 6 plus but never the 6. It is not something that we have listed as a know issue for either device at this time. Usually with screen response issues, a hard reset will clear it up but you may need to take it a step further with a restore through iTunes.

I have a question about the LTE Cellspot (raised by what drnewcom2 mentioned above)

In my neighborhood the houses are closeby. I am going to install the LTE Cellspot soon, which is connected to my home internet connection, and also associated with my cellphone.

I want to just double-check that none of my neighbors (who might be Tmobile customers) will be able to use my Home Internet data or my Tmobile phone voice or my Tmobile phone data through the LTE Cellspot. 

If my neighbor can only benefit from a boosted LTE signal, and my neighbour's tmobile phone data and tmobile phone voice goes directly to Tmobile towers (without touching my home network) then it is fine.

Can you pls clarify?

Userlevel 5

So with the LTE CellSpot, any T-Mobile customer within the approximate 3,000 sq ft range can connect to the device and cannot be blocked. I am not sure how close you are with your neighbors but with a limited range, you might be able to just ask some your neighbors if they have T-Mobile to get a better idea if this could cause an issue for you.

Chris, appreciate the response.

By connect, do u mean one of these, or all?

  1. ANYone can use the boosted Cellular signal
  2. ANYone can use the boosted Cellular signal, and their voice and data counts towards my line?
  3. ANYOne can use the boosted Cellular signal, and their voice or data packets use  my home internet connection?

If it is 1, it is NOT an issue to be concerned about.

#2 and #3 are NOT acceptable regardless of what the neighbours say. It might also put us into legal trouble e.g. if someone's IP packets go over our home network and they use the connection for bad purposes. I am surprised why any company will develop such a technology.


Think Twice About Getting a Microcell (or T-Mobile CellSpot) if You Live in an Urban Area

I just found this article that confims that the Tmobile Cellspot is a security concern for anyone living in a urban area.

On this cellspot device, is there a way to disable '2G/3G/4G/LTE Data" and only allow Voice?  if we can, then it should address the security concerns.

My home cellphones are configured to use wifi for data, and we probably only need the boost for voice calls (UMTS voice and voLTE).

Userlevel 6
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It should not be a security concern. Whenever a T-mobile uses the cell spot for data, texting, and calling it is getting tied into their account specifically for the usage. So anything they do is being tracked as if they were on the normal T-mobile network. The only concern you should worry about is hitting a data cap should your ISP have one. If you do have a wi-fi at the home you can just use wi-calling on the device which will accomplish similar results.

So for your concern about someone using the network for "bad purposes" I would not worry as the information would be easy to find/see that it was not you who did it.

thats great to know.

The Tmobile Web UI should clarify that it associates the device with a cellphone number only for lifecycle purposes i.e. incase the line gets deprovisioned, then they have to return the device.  Currently, the documentation says all data used is assigned to the cellphone plan, but does not clarify which cellphone plan it is referring to.

ISP data usage is a smaller concern for me.  For additional security,  I can put the device on its own network so that it cannot interact with my home network or put restrictions on the device to only allow communication to the internet.. (my router luckily allows this)

Userlevel 6
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Yep, also I assume you have a IT background and that is why you are being so cautious. Just remember though that the vast majority of people do not have this background, and the people that do would not want to do malicious things.

Anywho the cellspot itself will be tied to your account, any usage of the device will be tied to the account of the one using it, and all usage will still use your broadband internet connection.

"Just remember though that the vast majority of people do not have this background, and the people that do would not want to do malicious things." yes - I have an IT background which is why I am adding a additional safety layer on top of basic security.  But, normal people (without tech background) would be worried about basic security since they do not want to get into trouble because of other malicious or non-malicious people.

"Anywho the cellspot itself will be tied to your account, any usage of the device will be tied to the account of the one using it, and all usage will still use your broadband internet connection."-
Correct - and thanks for clarifying- minor wording change below:

Cellspot will be tied to my cellular account - incase the cellular account gets deprovisioned, the cellspot will have to be returned.
Cellspot cellular usage will be assigned to cellphone connected to cellspot
Cellspot ISP broadband data usage will be asigned to my ISP account.